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Thai protesters sentenced for 2008 television station takeover

The Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced 84 members of Thailand's People's Alliance for Democracy Network (PAD) [party website, in Thai; BBC Backgrounder], known as the "yellow shirt" movement, to between six and 30 months in prison Thursday for their roles in a 2008 invasion of a Thai television station. The convictions [Channel News Asia report] are among the first handed down to yellow shirts, though prosecutors did not charge any party leaders. Those convicted were involved in a 2008 attack [TNA report] on the government-owned National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBT) [media website, in Thai] where they threatened employees and shut the station down for a few hours. The yellow shirts attacked the station as part of their protests against then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile], an ally former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was deposed in a 2006 coup [JURIST report]. Yellow shirt opponents have criticized the government [BBC report] for not prosecuting more yellow shirts for violence during the 2008 demonstrations. Last week, Thailand lifted a state of emergency [BBC report] that had been in effect for eight months following protests by members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai], known as red shirts, last spring.

In September, a Thai court convicted two former yellow shirt television personalities [JURIST report] of defaming Thaksin by accusing him of insulting the monarchy. In August, red shirt leaders pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to inciting violence and threatening government officials during a week of violence in May. In June, the Thai government indicated it would study the possibility of extending amnesty to red shirt protesters [JURIST report] convicted of minor offenses in order to facilitate reconciliation within the country. The offer of amnesty would not be given to the protesters charged with terrorism but could be extended to the 27 red shirt protesters who were sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] for violating the emergency decree prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. The protests came to an end [JURIST report] in May when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin. The yellow shirts ended their protests in 2008 and released two airports they had taken over [JURIST reports] after Thailand's Constitutional Court ordered a dissolution of the ruling government and removed prime minister Somchai Wongsawat.

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